The Four Tops and the Four Seasons both started as street-corner harmony groups, and both were Top 40 mainstays in the '60s and early '70s. But the groups' concert Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre mostly accentuated their differences.
The Tops' music is vital and passionate; the Seasons' hits sound contrived and dated. The great thing about the shows that the Tops did with the Temptations a few years ago was that the two acts were so evenly matched. Here it was no match at all.
The Seasons' chirpy, falsetto-based sound is by now a worn novelty. And there's something unsettling about watching middle-aged men sing teen-age anthems. If it's discomforting these days to watch the Beach Boys--whose songs run circles around the Seasons hits--think how painful it was Friday when Frankie Valli sang dumb, dopey songs like "Big Girls Don't Cry."
The Tops' music, by contrast, sounds as good as it did 20 years ago (and will probably sound as good 20 years from now). Their hits--powered by Levi Stubbs' intense lead vocals--convey maturity and depth and class. Great, glorious soul will beat teeny-bopper gimmickry any day of the week. "Bernadette" vs. "Sherry"?